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Posted: January 17, 2017 12:16 p.m.

PREP BASKETBALL: A Midseason report card on Newton County hoops

Graphic art by Brian Worton | The Covington News/

Believe it or not, we’ve reached the midpoint of the basketball season, and the grades are in.

With just about month left in the regular season, before region tournaments begin and the state tournament berth chase begins in earnest, we at The Covington News decided to dish out some midseason progress reports.

We’ll take a look at each school’s boys and girls teams, provide a brief synopsis of their progress thus far, and a bit of a prognosis for how each team will finish the season.

Ladies first, in alphabetical order:

Alcovy Lady Tigers

Current Record: 3-9 overall, 0-3 in Region 3-AAAAAA

Best Win: Alcovy’s 60-34 blowout win over South Atlanta during the Woodland High School Christmas Tournament should qualify here. Though South Atlanta has a losing record, the Lady Tigers’ showed grit on defense and had their highest scoring output of the season here.

Toughest Loss: Coach Justin Hunter’s squad has had a few close call losses this season, but the 54-51 double overtime loss to Riverdale in that same tournament was a hard one, simply because of the fight the Tigers put into winning, and the missed opportunities to salt the game away.

Midseason MVP: Combo guard Tamia Brown. The 5-foot-4 junior has been the heart and soul for the Lady Tigers squad, leading them in points and assists, and setting up her other teammates for success. The most encouraging part about Brown’s game is the fact that she’s still got one more year to get better. Without Brown, the Tigers may not have the three wins they’ve got.

Midseason Grade: B- At the beginning of the season, Hunter said his team would rise and fall on its ability to excel in effort and execution. Hunter can’t be too upset with the team’s effort – particularly on defense. Despite a couple of lopsided results, the Tigers are only surrendering about 41 points per game. Their defense can keep them in most contests. But the execution offensively lacks, largely impart to youth around Brown. Freshman Serai Johnson has been a bright spot, however. If the Tigers can find some consistent scoring elsewhere than Brown, don’t be surprised to see them squeeze out three or four more wins this season, giving themselves some momentum to build on next year.

 

Eastside Lady Eagles

Current Record: 3-13 overall, 3-3 in Region 4-AAAA

Best Win: You don’t have to go too far back to find this one. This past Tuesday’s 47-41 win over an eight-win region opponent in Salem. That was major for the confidence of this young Eastside squad.

Toughest Loss: We’ll go with the 72-34 Luella loss on Dec. 16. Although it may have been the tough-to-swallow turning point needed to help Eastside gel. The Lady Eagles, in this game, were thoroughly dominated by a good, but not great Luella team. That’s always a hard kind of loss to take.

Midseason MVP: Alysee Dobbs. She scored 19 in Friday’s win over Druid Hills, and has been averaging double figures as a freshman. She is a picture of hustle, and her motor never stops running. She’s going to be a special player to watch if she continues to develop over the next three years.

Midseason Grade: B Given the lower expectations that come with a team full of unproven freshmen who haven’t spent a ton of time playing competitive college ball, the Eagles are actually doing pretty well for themselves. You always want to see a team improve as the year goes along, and it looks as though the Eagles are starting to play their best basketball as the season rounds that corner toward the January home stretch. And don’t look now, but with another region game against Salem on Jan. 17, that we now know is winnable for them, Eastside still has a chance to make a push.

 

Newton Lady Rams

Current Record: 13-2 overall, 4-0 in Region 8-AAAAAAA

Current Ranking: No. 6 in Class AAAAAAA

Best Win: Hands down, Friday’s 66-63 victory over No. 5 Archer. On the road, against an athletic team with three girls 6-feet and taller, and one right at 5-foot-11? Yeah, this one was impressive.

Toughest Loss: The Dec. 10 49-42 loss to Duluth, though not a region game, is probably one of those that coach Tiffani Johnson would like to have back. When you lose because a team is better, that’s one thing. But when you lose because you simply weren’t bringing your ‘A’ game, then that’s another. Chalk this loss up to the latter for Newton.

Midseason MVP: Honestly, you could make a case for a few. But we’ll go with the obvious choice. Lexii Chatman. The diminutive junior is a consummate leader and the chief scorer on a fast, but small Newton squad. Her 24 points, clutch buckets and solid defense against Archer is probably the reason why they won.

Midseason Grade: A- Coach Johnson will tell you that sometimes her team can go through some mildly inexplicable concentration laps. Although it seems to happen most when her team plays down to the level of competition. A good showing against a couple of solid teams at the BallNPrep Powher Holiday Invite in Birmingham, Ala., coupled with the big win at Archer has Johnson and company feeling as if they can compete with anyone. Several region games will test the team’s focus, including a regular season finale with Archer at home. If the Lady Rams stay focused, they will be tough to beat.

 

BOYS

Alcovy Tigers

Current Record: 5-9 overall, 0-3 in Region 3-AAAAAA

Best Win: The Nov. 19 and 21 wins against Spalding and Luella may tie. Both teams may not be state powers, but have enough athletic ability to cause trouble if you sleep on them. Alcovy showed, in these games, that if healthy, they can give some teams problems.

Toughest Loss: Definitely the Dec. 20 game with Northgate. A 57-55 setback, that game was a heartbreaker that began a five-game slide for the Tigers. And the game was winnable in every way, despite Alcovy missing key players due to injury.

Midseason MVP: This may be different if the roster was fully intact, but we’ll say Shaq Brown, on a team that has a lot of young talent. He’s been rising up as a consistent player, at least through the Holiday Tournament season.

Midseason Grade: C+ It’s kind of tough to grade Alcovy because of the missing pieces they’ve had to play with, such as Carnarcion Cosby who is a scorer for them. Cosby has been nursing injury. Koby Perry has also missed some time, and coach Mack Hardwick called Perry one of the team’s best leaders in the preseason. A tough back end of the schedule includes games against Lakeside and Heritage-Conyers, and a regular season finale with Class AAAA No. 5 Eastside. The expectations were maybe a little higher than what the results have been so far, but there’s still time to make a bit of a turnaround, particularly if some of the missing pieces return.

 

Eastside Eagles

Current Record: 11-6

Current Ranking: No. 5 in Class AAAA

Best Win: That 78-71 win over then-No. 3 Henry County on Dec. 12 was huge, and seemed to give Eastside some confidence going into the Holiday Tourneys.

Toughest Loss: Fewer losses aggravate a coach and frustrate a team more than those lost on the free throw line. Such was the case when Eastside lost 63-61 to Salem last week after Keiodre Perry missed a pair with 4.6 seconds left that could’ve tied the game.

Midseason MVP: With apologies to Keiodre Perry, who’s having a stellar season, we’re going to go with Des Dyer here. We knew Perry would have a big year, especially with the brunt of the team’s leadership on his shoulders. But few people saw Dyer’s double-double per game production coming. Without that, Eastside’s sledding would be much tougher, even with Perry.

Midseason Grade: B+ This grade comes straight from the mouth of Eastside’s coach himself. “Effort is an A,” he says. But execution has been lacking. Especially in this stretch of four losses in five games. The back end of the schedule is favorable, though, for Eastside to regain some momentum heading into the region tourney.

 

Newton Rams

Current Record: 17-0, 4-0

Current Rankings: No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA, No. 14 on Maxpreps.com, No. 21 in USA Today’s Top 25.

Best Win: The 73-64 win over Spartanburg Day in the Farm Bureau Classic Championship game. Not because Newton hasn’t played better teams, but because the win over arguably the nation’s best high school player, Zion Williamson, helped catapult Newton into the national spotlight.

Midseason MVP: Talk about another tough one. But we’ll give the nod to Isaiah Miller, just because of what his addition to the team has done to make sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans and senior sharpshooter J.D. Notae so much more dangerous. Really, any of those three could make a strong case.

Midseason Grade: A We’re holding off on the “plus” because there’s always room for improvement. It will be interesting to see what Newton can do against teams with more size. But so far, the big three of Hagans, Miller and Notae have been unstoppable. And role players like 6-foot-6 Josh Tukes and three-point threat Darvin Jones have only added to the Rams’ potency. Getting past a Spartanburg Day rematch may be the only thing stopping Newton from a perfect regular season.

 

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